Category Archives: language

The Hogwarts Cheer

The Hogwarts Cheer is something that appears in several of the Harry Potter movies.  I don’t mean a “go-fight-win” cheer, I mean an actual, clapping, cheering, whoo-hooing phenomenon that I have dubbed “Hogwarts Cheer,” which I now use to label similar cheesy celebrations in other movies.  A Hogwarts Cheer isn’t just a crowd cheering–lots of movies have cheering crowds and they aren’t cheesy at all.  But if it is cheesy, and especially if there are children, (and at least one of them is saying “yaaaaaaay!”), and the whole thing is symbolic of the protagonist’s victory and/or the antagonist’s downfall, then you’ve got yourself a Hogwarts Cheer.

The original Hogwarts Cheer ^

The original Hogwarts Cheer of course is at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, when Gryffindor wins the house cup.  Click here to see the clip.  See what I mean?  It’s a little overly enthusiastic, right?  But it’s the feel-good end of a children’s movie, so, it fits.  We see the Hogwarts Cheer again at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, (click here to see), when Hagrid is released from Azkaban and re-instated as Hogwarts groundskeeper.  Then in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2, the students give a Hogwarts Cheer to Professor McGonagall for vanquishing Snape from the castle, (click here and skip to 3:05 to see), and right after that when she sends the Slytherins to the dungeons, (an action which I have already pointed out as a flaw in the film), there is an abbreviated Hogwarts Cheer. (Click here and skip to 49 second mark to see).

Snape would never participate in a Hogwarts Cheer. He claps too slow, plus he would never say "yaaaay!"

Basically, a Hogwarts Cheer is anything that sounds like this:

I know there was a great big Hogwarts Cheer at the end of Dolphin Tale, but I can’t find a clip of it online.  There have got to be tons of other examples, too, but since I am the only person I know so far who uses this term I can’t exactly google “Hogwarts Cheer examples other movies” or something.  I think the fact that I continue to use the label “Hogwarts Cheer” even when the context isn’t related to Harry Potter is just another example of the far-reaching cultural influence of the beloved series.

Do you know what I’m talking about?  Can you think of any other examples of the Hogwarts Cheer?

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Creaky Speaky

I saw an interesting article yesterday about the emergence of “vocal fry” in the speech patterns of young American English-speaking females.  According to the article,

Vocal fry, or glottalization, is a low, staccato vibration during speech, produced by a slow fluttering of the vocal cords (listen here).

It’s that “uh-uh-uh-uh-uh” sound, kind of like a staccato motor, that I only intentionally use when I’m being really sarcastic, or mocking sorority girls, or expressing frustration or uncertainty.  Okay, so maybe I do use it a lot.  But this study found that females tended to end sentences they were reading out loud with the creak, which I wouldn’t have expected.  Normally speakers reading aloud tend to use more formal pronunciation patterns than in everyday conversation.  And now that I’ve started paying attention, I have noticed myself tagging the ends of sentences with a dip in intonation that sometimes goes all the way down into a “vocal fry.”  I’ll be keeping my ears open to see if I notice it in others as well.  It’s just fascinating, isn’t it, that these kinds of things can be totally unconscious, yet systematic.  What’s behind the emergence of this trend, and why is it only females? The article states:

The team’s next steps will attempt to find out when this habit started—and if it is indeed a budding trend.

The researchers also plan to test students in high schools and middle schools to learn why young women creak when they speak. “Young students tend to use it when they get together,” Abdelli-Beruh says. “Maybe this is a social link between members of a group.”

It will be interesting to see if they are able to pinpoint significant cultural influences that might have triggered the rise of this creaky voice trend, but even if they don’t it’s still a fascinating example of the way the languages we speak are living organisms, constantly evolving, the mutations spreading through soundwaves from brain to brain.

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Problems with “Project Nim”

I went to a screening of the documentary “Project Nim” recently.  The film is in very limited release, but it is very interesting and worth checking out if you get a chance.  I went out of an interest in the project itself, since it is one I have heard referenced numerous times in my linguistics classes, but I didn’t know all of the specifics.   Well, this documentary wasn’t interested in the science and data.  It was much more focused on the people involved, and seemed to be questioning whether this whole project was even very “scientific” at all.  It’s also seems directed towards making the point that Nim’s treatment over the span of his life was unjust.

isn't baby Nim just adorable?

The film is actually based on a book written by Elizabeth Hess, called “Nim Chimpskey: The Chimp Who Would Be Human.”  I have yet to read it myself, so I can’t comment on how the movie may differ from it’s print source of inspiration.  Like most documentaries, the narrative is largely told by various interviews with those involved recalling anecdotes and opinions about their experiences, and there is also some archival footage of Nim playing around or signing.  Although there wasn’t as much information on the actual data and results as I was expecting, it was still an incredibly fascinating look at the interpersonal dynamics behind such a famous research project.

I definitely came away from the film with some unflattering impressions of many of the individuals involved with Nim, (crazy hippie, naive assistant, smarmy, lecherous, callous professor), but it’s difficult to tell how much of those impressions are due to the way the movie was edited.  We of course don’t see anyone’s complete interview, only the most relevant (or outrageous) soundbites.  And there are shots included of Herbert Terrace, lead researcher on the project, smoothing down his mustache in-between questions, which is perhaps unfair footage to include since it’s not really part of the interview and makes him look like a creepy old man.  But then, he admits that he slept with two of Nim’s teachers, and “[doesn’t] think it affected the science at all.”  (I remain unconvinced on that point.)  Also, it’s hard to think of  a context that would make many of the quotes by the woman who was Nim’s original primary caretaker, Stephanie LaFarge, sound sane.

One question that kept occurring to me as I watched was how such a seemingly unorganized, unplanned project  was ever funded or approved in the first place.  Every experimental research project that I have first-hand knowledge of from my own University is ten times more methodically planned, organized, approved and executed than Project Nim appears to have been.  Were the seventies such a different time period?  In a similar vein, I couldn’t help but wonder how a project with such obvious flaws brought such acclaim and academic career advancements for many of those involved.

Nim with one of his teachers, Laura-Ann Petitto

As much as I disliked Terrace by the end of the film, I had to agree with his conclusion, (based on my limited observation of the sessions and data included in the film), that Nim did not display syntax and was merely performing signs as a behavioral, not linguistic, response to elicitation.   However, this experiment was not conducted in a way that conclusively shows chimpanzees are incapable of acquiring language naturalistically!  It was a sensational case because of the way that Nim was raised with a human family, but neither Stephanie nor any of her children knew any sign language before Nim came to live with them.  They learned individual signs and taught them to him explicitly.  Later, an undergraduate Research Assistant, Laura-Ann Petitto, takes over Nim’s instruction, (because Stephanie refused to take notes, charts, or schedules, insisting Nim “wouldn’t have thrived” in such an orderly environment), and constructed daily lesson plans for the chimp.

Does any of that sound remotely like the way human babies acquire language?  Do their mothers learn one or two words a day and then teach it to the baby?  Do their nannies make lesson plans, and quiz them on the words they were taught the day before?  Of course not.  Children learn language by being exposed to natural language use going on all around them, and yes, sometimes directed towards them.  If Terrace really wanted to investigate whether a chimp could learn language “like a human”, he should have placed him with a family that regularly used sign language to communicate not only with him, but with each other.  It struck me as very strange that Nim’s handlers, in the clips shown, used only signs with him, but wouldn’t speak verbally while signing, yet they spoke out loud to one another in his presence.  What a confusing linguistic environment!  No wonder his signing never resemble human language!

In many ways, watching this documentary reminded me of what it was like to read the book Genie: A Scientific Tragedy, a similarly behind-the-scenes look at another very famous, often-cited linguistic case that was also surrounded by ethical controversies and interpersonal drama among the researchers.  I think there’s probably always some degree of drama when people work together on anything, but it seems that these high-profile cases attract more of it.  The movie “Project Nim” does a great job of presenting the juiciest bits of that drama up for our entertainment, but hopefully it also provides an opportunity for some critical analysis on the way this and any scientific experiment ought to be conducted.

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This is Interesting

Just read an article about a German company trade-marking the F word.  Read it here.

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Helping Americans understand “Attack the Block”

I recently saw the film Attack the Block, (and I absolutely loved it, by the way), which features a gang of teen-aged boys in their south London neighborhood struggling for territorial dominance against the police, a drug dealer…and recently arriving aliens.  Oh, it’s a great movie!

Moses, Ninja!

But some Americans may have a little trouble understanding the dialogue.  For the most part it’s in a dialect probably best described as cockney, and there’s a bit of unfamiliar slang as well.  For me it was very enjoyable and fun, and I think the main motivations and actions are clear even if you can’t catch or decipher every word, but I thought I’d post a few helpful hints.

First of all, interdentals [th-sounds, a voiceless θ as in “thin, thigh” or a voiced ð as in “then, thy”] are often pronounced as labio-velar fricatives, [so θ might become f, ð might become v].  That means “brother” comes out sounding like “bruvah”, (the r-deletion being a common feature among most modern British dialects).  And “thing” is pronounced “fing”, although not every single th-sound is converted to an f or a v.  Sometimes it is a d or a t instead, even for the same speaker.  It depends on the word, where the th-sound appears (and by what other sounds), and also probably just the mood or speed of the speaker.  Throughout most of the film, Moses says “fings” instead of “things,” but in one pivotal scene he says:

Yo, check it.  More.  (More what?)  Dem tings.

This is similar to the two ways that a speaker like myself might pronounce the word “often,” (with the t or without), and it really just depends on how fast I’m talking, and to whom, and whether or not I am stressing that word.  In any case, another feature that distinguishes the cockney dialect is the abundance of glottal stops.  Glottal stops are everywhere!  I might borrow a line from Biggz and say “It’s rainin’ glottal stops!” instead of “it’s rainin’ Gollums!”  A glottal stop [ʔ] is produced by putting the vocal folds together to completely cut off all air in the glottis, then releasing the air suddenly.  It’s the sound in-between the segments of “uh-oh”.   In the cockney dialect, t’s in the middle or end of a word are often replaced with a glottal stop.  So, you get lines like:

Leʔ us roll wif you, we’re bad boys!  (-Probs and Mayhem)

I killed dat fing.  I brought dem in da block.  I’ve goʔa finish what we staʔeʔ [“started”] (-Moses)

You’ʔ be beʔa off callin’ the ghost busters, love. (-Pest)

As far as slang, there was really only one that was unrecognizable to me, and that was “fam”.  It appeared at least twice, once towards the beginning when freshly mugged Sam makes a run for it and one of the boys tells Moses,

Eh fam, she’s ghostin’!

To which he repiles,

Allow iʔ.  (“allow it”, a line later repeated by the stoic Moses after a rousing speech by one of his loyal minions, “Moses versus the monsters! Kill ’em!  Kill all dem fings!)

The only other time that I noticed it, (mind you this is based on a single viewing), was when the boys are in Ron’s apartment discussing what to do with the body of the alien they’ve killed.  It’s suggested that it might be worth something, and somebody suggests:

e-bay, fam!

Otherwise the boys refer to one another as bro, bruvah, dude, or by proper name.  I consulted with an expert, (my cousin MD who grew up in England), and it turns out “fam” is a similar term to “bro”, short for “family” instead of “brother” and used in the same way to convey a close relationship with somebody that may not literally be in your family.

"Right now I feel like goin' home, lockin' the door, and playin' FIFA!"

Another terminology that may sound strange to American ears is “innit”.   This is a shortening of “isn’t it,” and it’s used much more generally than the same phrase in American English.  It can be used with any person to take the place of aren’t I/aren’t you/isn’t he/isn’t it/doesn’t it/aren’t we/don’t we/aren’t they/don’t they.  Sometimes it just means, “ya know?”  It’s a tag at the end of a statement.  As in:

You know what? I’m shittin’ myself, innit…but this is sick.  [sick meaning “cool” here, of course].

or

We’re heroes, isn’t it? [meaning, “we’re heroes, aren’t we?”]

Another little tidbit I noticed was that the character Hi-Hatz displays some interesting word choice, saying both,

We gotta learn them youngers tonight, this is my block!

and,

I was gonna make you.  Now I’m gonna dead you.  This is my block, get me?

Creative, isn’t it?  But those aren’t patterns displayed by the other characters.  Although, I also loved the creativity of one of the boys when Hi-Hatz threatens that he’d better not use the word “alien” again, so he says “one a’ them big gorilla-wolf motha fuckas.”  That’s called circumlocution, folks.  My high school Spanish teacher was always trying to get us to “use circumlocution!” instead of looking up words we didn’t know.  She’d be so proud.

(on hearing Sam is a nurse): "Help me, then. I NEED this leg, I need it to run away from the aliens!"

Okay, I think that’s it for my “Attack the Block” dialect lecture.  I’ll leave you with another tidbit of cultural context; the reason the boys (and so many others) are shooting off fireworks throughout the night is that it’s Guy Fawkes Day, (November 5), a somewhat strange holiday to commemorate a failed attempt to blow up the British Parliament celebrated with explosions and fires.  The clue comes in a bit of dialogue when the boys triumphantly drag their freshly killed alien carcass past a group of their co-ed peers, and somebody comments “Halloween was last week, you know.”  (I must credit MD again for helping me figure this one out, although I should have “remember[ed], remember[ed], the fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason and plot.”).

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Analyzing “The Help” Dialogue

As I mentioned previously, the book and movie “The Help”, by Kathryn Stockett, have been surrounded by controversy even as they have both performed very successfully in sales.  One such criticism came from the Association of Black Women Historians.  They said:

Both versions of The Help also misrepresent African American speech and culture. Set in the South, the appropriate regional accent gives way to a child-like, over-exaggerated “black” dialect. In the film, for example, the primary character, Aibileen, reassures a young white child that, “You is smat, you is kind, you is important.” In the book, black women refer to the Lord as the “Law,” an irreverent depiction of black vernacular.

You can read the Association’s entire statement here.  I am not an expert on dialects of the Southern United States, much less those of the particular time period represented in the movie.  But I think I would agree that the maids’ dialogue in the film is probably not a completely accurate portrayal.

There is a variety of English known as AAVE (African-American Vernacular English, sometimes referred to as “ebonics”), that has some more noticeable differences from SAE (Standard American English) than some other dialects.  Some of these differences are phonological and affect the pronunciation of words, but some are syntactic and affect the construction of sentences.  Very briefly, to provide some background for analyzing dialogue in “The Help,” I am including some information on this variety.  The image below is a scan of the most relevant page on syntactic features of AAVE from An Introduction to Language, by Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman and Nina Hyams.

With this context of Be-deletion, Habitual Be, let’s revisit some of the maids’ dialogue from “The Help,” which I posted the other day.

Let’s start with Aibileen’s mantra that she repeats often to the child she cares for:

You is kind, you is smart, you is important.

That doesn’t fit with either the be-deletion rule or the Habitual “Be” usage.  Since this is a construction where SAE could contract the copula, (“you’re kind,” etc.), it is likewise a construction where be-deletion is possible in AAVE, (“you kind.”)  However, when it comes to Habitual “Be”, the absence of a copula communicates a temporary state of being.  It’s very similar to the ser/estar forms in Spanish.  To convey what Aibileen clearly intends in this case, though, that no matter if the little girl has accidentley peed when it’s socially unacceptable or whatever the case, she as a person should believe she is enduring kind, smart, and important, the construction really should be “you be kind, you be smart, you be important.”

The be-deletion in some of Aibileen’s other lines are in line with these rules:

Aibileen: She [Jolene] havin’ bridge club right now, may I take a message?

Miss Jolene isn’t perpetually having bridge club, so this form is correct for AAVE to communicate that at the moment she is busy.  But then, she says:

It hard.  You go try and see.  [on recruiting more maids to tell Skeeter their stories.]

and

[one of her white charges was] always axin’ me how come I’s black.  I told him one time it was ‘cuz I drunk too much coffee.

To me the construction “It be hard” is more fitting; in the conversation where this line appears, it isn’t the case that tonight they’ve been trying to recruit and having difficulty.  It is the case that they’ve been trying, over a long period of time, without success.  So the Habitual “Be” form makes much more sense.  I’m not a speaker of the AAVE dialect, so I can’t provide a judgment, but to me “it hard” doesn’t even sound okay the way that “it be hard” does.  (Please leave me a comment if you do have a native speaker judgment on this or any other construction).  Of course “it hard” is a construction that would allow contraction in SAE, (“it’s hard,”), so, maybe this is just plain copula deletion.  But in the second construction, Aibileen uses a conjugated form of “to be” not used with first person in SAE, and contracts it;  “how come I’s [I is] black”.   So how do we analyze that?  Is this the same pattern being used in the “you is kind, you is smart, you is important” phrasing?  Why does a single speaker, Aibileen, exhibit such inconsistent copula usages?  Why is one of her most iconic, oft-repeated lines (“you is smart” etc) in a construction that she really doesn’t use throughout the rest of the film?

AAVE is one variety of English, and there are several variations within this variety, just like any other dialect.  Every speaker may have their own way of speaking that does not necessarily follow the general trend.  Here’s a source that says generalizing the use of “is” can be a feature (“an exception to the rule”) of AAVE.  So, maybe that could explain those constructions.  But…to me, it lacks consistency.  When real people speak a dialect, (and everybody that speaks a language speaks a dialect, or variety, of that language), they follow consistent grammar rules.  Maybe those rules don’t match the ones you learn in school, but that is the way the human brain produces and interprets language data, through a system of rules.  That’s what Linguists mean when we say grammar, the rules in a native speaker’s head.  What’s frustrating to me in this movie is that the dialogue of the maids does not appear to be consistent with itself, does not necessarily represent the way any one individual actually speaks, but does appear (to me) to mash together features from several varieties of AAVE and in the process perhaps unintentionally prolong sociolinguistic stereotyping.

There is no such thing as an ignorant or simple dialect.  But there are social stereotypes associated with various ways of speaking, (and the attitudes around AAVE in particular have long been a hot-button issue.  See discussions on the topic at The Linguist List.)  You can tell me that I’m over-analyzing, over-thinking it, it’s just a movie, it can’t be expected to be held up as a reliable reference.  And that’s true.  But did you know that the alien Na’vi language from Avatar is an actual language system, complete with phonological, morphological, and syntactic rules, that the filmmakers paid a linguist to create?  Yeah.  Paul Frommer, and he spent four years developing it before the movie came out.  And I know “The Help” didn’t have the budget that Avatar did.  But was an effort even made to be historically accurate with the maids’ dialect?  The only reference I could find (via google) to a dialect coach for the film, (Nadia Venesse according to the credits), was in an article that said

“…the dialect coach has been really specific and has recorded people whose dialects were pure according to that time period.”

But that was from an interview with Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays one of the white Southern ladies.  Was the same effort made with all the dialects represented in the film?  I have to assume so, but why didn’t any interviewer think to ask Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer about that?  Their lines are much more interesting, from a dialect perspective.  Did people think it would be insensitive to ask?  Were people afraid to approach the subject at all, given the touchy nature of the subject and the history of debates over attitudes towards AAVE in this country? Did people think about it at all or did they just assume that’s how black maids in the sixties talked?
Am I the only one thinking about this?
Does anybody with more expertise want to weigh in?

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Nitpicking “Apes”

I saw “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” (RotPotA), last night.  It was so good!  Truly amazing how much storytelling and conveyance of emotion and thought was accomplished with little to no dialogue and a main character who was completely motion-capture CGI.  Andy Serkis is brilliant.  The people at WETA are brilliant.  It was a fantastic movie.

Caesar

But, you know, I’m a nerd and my brain has a tendency to look for logic, even in fantasy.  It doesn’t have to be “real” but I like for my stories to be realistic, assuming the imagined events really happened.  I’m totally willing to suspend disbelief and accept that aliens could show up, but then I want their ships to be designed for actual space travel, and I don’t want them speaking English unless there is a very good explanation for how and why they learned it.  That type of thing.  So with RotPotA, while I enjoyed the film very much overall and was moved by Ceasar’s journey, there were a few things that didn’t add up.  And I’m willing to overlook them and say it was still a great story, very well-told, but come on, isn’t this the type of thing having a blog is for?  Being able to complain about tiny details in movies that didn’t make sense?

Okay, so first of all, although it was a very handy storytelling device that made power dynamics very clear, and although it provided some very emotional moments, Caesar should not have known the palm-up “supplicating gesture”.  Unless Will taught it to him, but he obviously didn’t, because he didn’t recognize what it was and had to have Caroline, (his eventual girlfriend), explain it to him.  When they go to the redwoods reserve for the first time, Will takes the leash off of Caesar and says something like, “if I take this off, you’ve gotta promise to stay in my sight.  I’ll never find you again otherwise.”  Caesar is eager to explore and climb the giant trees, but he stays put, looking up at Will pleadingly and extending his hand palm-up.  Will doesn’t know what he wants, but Caroline says, “He’s asking your permission.  It’s a supplicating gesture,” and takes Will’s hand to brush his fingers across Caesar’s palm, giving him the permission he feels he needs to run off and explore.  The same gesture comes back several times later on, and as I said, it is very useful.

But the problem with the way it was introduced is that Caesar wouldn’t have known it if, as Will says when he surrenders him to the ape reserve, “He’s never spent any time around other apes.”  He was raised entirely around humans, and Will taught him several signs, but not this one.  So how does Caesar know it?  Is it supposed to be an innate knowledge, like spiders weaving webs?  Some animal communication systems are instinctual, like bees and their waggle dances, but many others, even some types of birdsong, baby animals have to learn through socialization with others of their kind.  I’m not an expert on primates, but as far as I know apes are not born with an innate knowledge of any kind of social interaction or communication skills such as this “supplicating gesture.”  So it is possible that all or most of the other apes would be familiar with this gesture, having lived amongst other apes that also used it, but Caesar would have no knowledge of it unless Will (or Caroline, or somebody) had taught it to him.  It would be more likely that he would have signed ASL for “please” or something in this situation, showing the same deference to Will as the alpha male but using a different communication symbol.

Caesar’s transition to spoken language, while emotionally powerful, is equally illogical.  The whole reason that many apes have been taught to sign in research (or circuses, I guess, according to that orangutan), is because it’s impossible for them to speak as humans do.  As George Yule put it in his introductory textbook The Study of Language,

“…it has become clear that non-human primates do not actually have a physically structured vocal tract which is suitable for articulating the sounds used in speech.  Apes and gorillas can, like chimpanzees, communicate with a wide range of vocal calls, but they just can’t make human speech sounds.”

Probably an ape with super-intelligence like Caesar really could say or approximate something very similar to “No!”, but there is no way he could say “Caesar is home,” the way the does at the end.  (Sorry if I just spoiled that bit for you.)  Just the word “Caesar” would be impossible, two alveolar fricatives (s,z) and a retroflex approximant (r)?!  Not happening.

If an ape was exposed to a drug that caused increased brain functioning resulting in super-intelligence, it is entirely possible that he would either vastly expand his signing inventory, (a few hundred signs is the most that apes in research have been able to acquire, compared to thousands of words the average human knows), or even that he would develop his own complex form of spoken language, it just wouldn’t sound anything like English.  Or any other human language.  I mean, I realize that this development had to happen, plot-wise, in order to set up the original Planet of the Apes movies in which they all talk, but I’m just saying, increased brain functioning doesn’t explain how that could have happened.  You’d need an evolution of the vocal tract, too.

And by the way, after watching RotPotA I googled “what is an ape” since I was never sure about the exact definition.  Wikipedia says the word has several different senses, and in the process of reading I saw “Except for gorillas and humans, hominoids are agile climbers of trees.”  So that presents another problem for the movie, because when they break out of the ape habitat they have a gorilla in their group, so how did the gorilla (Buck) keep up when they were swinging through the trees and knocking all the leaves down onto that jogger on their way to the zoo and the bridge?  I’m just saying.  Realistically he wouldn’t have been able to keep up.

Oh well.  It is still a great movie.

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Bad Beginnings…no really, BAD…

Came across this the other day.  It’s a pretty hilarious read.  It’s a contest (the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest) that I’ve head about before where the goal is to write the worst possible first line for an imaginary novel.  Click here to enjoy the full list.  Here’s some of my favorites:

The victim was a short man, with a face full of contradictions: amalgam, composite, dental porcelain, with both precious and non-precious metals all competing for space in a mouth that was open, bloody, terrifying, gaping, exposing a clean set of asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth, but clearly the object of some very comprehensive dental care, thought Dirk Graply, world-famous womanizer, tough guy, detective, and former dentist.

Within the smoking ruins of Keister Castle, Princess Gwendolyn stared in horror at the limp form of the loyal Centaur who died defending her very honor; “You may force me to wed,” she cried at the leering and victorious Goblin King, “but you’ll never be half the man he was.”

As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.

As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand—who would take her away from all this—and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.

Dawn crept up like the panther on the gazelle, except it was light, not dark like a panther, and a panther, though quiet, could never be as silent as the light of dawn, so really the analogy doesn’t hold up well, as cool as it sounds, but it still is a great way to begin a story; just not necessarily this particular one.

And this one was the actual winner:

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

(The winning lines were written by Sue Fondrie of Oshkosh, WI).

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capital letters

i’ve noticed i’m very inconsistent with capitalization on this blog.  in my first post, there was none, in the second i used the standard style, in the third i reverted to my habitual disuse of the shift key in informal text-speech and then in the last one i actually started typing in all lowercase but decided halfway through to change and went back and capitalized.  i may have missed some, though.

i really prefer not to capitalize if, as i said, the setting is informal.  but i still feel  names and book titles should be capitalized, to sort of set them apart as being proper nouns.  if you will notice, both of the posts where i ended up capitalizing everything contain proper nouns, so that is probably why i used the standard capitalization at the beginnings of sentences and for the word “I” in them.

well.  language standards are set by the people that use them, (some of the time.  other times they are set by pedants and prescriptivists).  what is acceptable may change depending on the context.  i am hereby deciding that in the context of this blog, it is acceptable for me to not to use capital letters, unless i feel like it.

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